Shirt DSQUARED2, trousers NEIL BARRETT, shoes VANS, socks and accessories ANTHONY’S OWN
With appearances in Drake-backed drama Top Boy, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s comic masterpiece Fleabag, and Colm McCarthy’s dystopian flick The Girl with All the Gifts, it’s fair to say that Anthony Welsh is racking up quite the impressive CV. For his latest role, the actor has been tapped by Paddy Considine for the fist-throwing film, Journeyman, which explores the life of main character Matty Burton, who suffers a head injury during a fight; Welsh plays the antagonist to Considine’s protagonist.
When we meet in Hoxton towards the end of another typically British summer, Welsh is worlds away from his onscreen counterpart, sympathising with me in regards to a work-party-induced hangover like a genuine pal I’ve known for years. He’s laid-back, humble and seemingly unbothered by his rapidly rising social status. Hungover grumblings aside, below Welch talks sucking at school, the mastermind of Paddy Considine, and his part in the upcoming series of Black Mirror.
All clothing NEIL BARRETT
Do you want to start by telling me how you got into acting?
By pretty much fucking up my A-levels. Do you mind me swearing?
Say whatever you want. It’s a Monday, you’re allowed to swear!
I studied a lot of stuff that I didn’t have much interest in. The last time I did drama was when it was compulsory in year 7 to year 9, and when we got to choose at GCSE, I didn’t choose any of the arts. After I got my results for my A-levels – which were terrible, like letters I didn’t even know you could get – I had a bit of a talk with my parents and my uncle, and my uncle suggested that I try an acting class because I enjoyed it in school. So I found this evening course at Richmond Adult Community College, it was two hours per week. Then I found out about all these other amazing drama schools, like LAMDA and RADA and Guildhall and stuff, and I thought, ‘Oh, okay, so you can carry on,’ and then I auditioned for those. I got rejected by both RADA and LAMDA, and then, LAMDA’s the only drama school that allows you to re-audition in the same year, so I did that and then I got in. I did three years there and then got a job, so I left a little bit early in the third year, and yeah, snowball effect from there basically.
How do you prepare for a role?
It’s a good question, you know, I think it changes every single time. I was talking to my friend about this the other day – the only thing that stays constant is you read the script and then learn the lines, do you know what I mean? That’s the only thing and I don’t have, I don’t think I have a method yet, I do whatever I think or feel is necessary for me to do the part justice, feel comfortable and feel connected.
You’ve got Journeyman coming up, tell me how you got involved in that.
So, the wonderful Paddy Considine, I did a zombie film with him called The Girl with All the Gifts, and it was a small role and – he doesn’t know this – I did that film mostly because I got to work with him, and I got to play one of his soldiers in the film. And so we got to talking about boxing – I didn’t know he’s a massive boxing fan – and I did a play at the Royal Court called Sucker Punch, which was about boxing. So I was telling him about my experience of boxing and he was kind of sizing me up, like, you know, “how tall are you?” and “how much do you weigh?” Anyway, long story short, this film came about and I got asked to audition for it. And because I kind of had a bit of a relationship with him, it worked out, and we had about two weeks – not very much time – to prepare.
Did you do much training for the film?
I was in decent shape, but I was nowhere near like boxing shape, that’s a whole different kettle of fish. They had a nutritionist for us and an amazing trainer, Dominic Ingle and Greg Marriott, who work with the champion Kell Brook, all the boys up there in Sheffield. We went up there and we stayed with them for just under a month, and they had me on the strictest diet: no sugar, no salt. I had to drink eight litres of water in one day, which is crazy, but all necessary.
Coat AMI, shirt 7 FOR ALL MANKIND, T-shirt and jeans RIVER ISLAND
You’ve worked with Paddy on two films now, what is he like to work with?
He’s the most generous person I’ve probably worked with. He gave me so much ownership of the part. He allowed me to improv, he let me choose colours and things I would wear. He let me choose music, I know these sound like really small things but that doesn’t always happen, you know? And it’s quite scary to be given that responsibility too, because you want to get it right.
You’ve also got Black Mirror coming up, what can you tell me about your involvement in that?
You know what, I’ll be honest, pretty much nothing I think! I went to Iceland to film. I was there for about two weeks, on and off. Iceland’s beautiful, that’s another conversation, but Iceland is amazing. Yeah, I don’t know what I can say about it, apart from it’s a good episode!
What do you think it is that appeals to people about Black Mirror as an overall series?
I think it’s because it’s the truth. I’m not sure, but the reasons I really liked it was that I didn’t feel like we were far from the episodes themselves. Especially the first three, when they first dropped it just felt like that’s where we are, you know, a bit heightened and a bit more in your face! 1984 sort of revamped, upgraded in a way.
Finally, tell me about your goals, acting wise.
I just want to tell good stories. I want to work with good people, I want to get paid well, and challenge myself. And I’ve found that only after, nearly 10 years of working, that the stuff I’ve done has hopefully made me a better person too, you know? The people I’ve met and the walks of life that they’re on sort of opens up my eyes to different cultures and backgrounds and the way people grow up. I don’t know, that sounds silly, but it’s the simple things that kind of I look for, and I just want to learn more as I get older I suppose.